Air Pollution: causes, consequences and the way forward.

Air pollution is a very crucial environmental issue. Its seriousness can be measured by the fact that approximately nine out of ten people are inhaling dirty air. Today not only India but the other parts of the world are also facing the same problem but in the Indian context, it becomes more considerable because Indian cities are continuously being rated negatively for their air quality index (AQI). In Delhi, air pollution reached alarming levels of 485 AQI (air quality index), when the safe limit for humans is less than 100 AQI. Here these examples may seem to be centred at NCR but it’s an unfortunate reality of the local cities also. 

In order to analyze the reasons behind it when we see the role of our society and policymakers in this reference then it becomes a responsibility to know the causes on the same bases.

Let’s start from the social causes of air pollution like unawareness, illiteracy, social inequality etc. After that we should make a review of shortcomings of policies and their implementation.

Air pollution: social causes:

Among various social factors responsible for air pollution some universal causes are discussed below –

1. Unawareness:

Air pollution is not a serious issue for the maximum portion of the population especially in rural areas because it is assumed that it has no direct personal harm for individuals , its consequences are being faced by a specific area or the society as a whole. Unawareness is the most common reason behind all type social issues.

2. Illiteracy:

Education is a fundamental requirement of us but in Indian scenario it is considerable that there is on easy reach for common people to standard education facilities specially for those who are economically and socially backward.

Illiteracy plays a serious role as a cause of air pollution because it contracts the opportunity of working in the mainstream for a bigger section of society. Due to illiteracy, the proper execution of any war plan against air pollution becomes pathetic and approximately impossible.

3. Poor Infrastructure:

We know that the issue of climate change is directly related to the issue of air pollution hence comparatively rich and developed countries are always intended to bound the developing countries like India and China to cut in their Carbon dioxide emission but both the countries refused the proposal because they need some relaxation to fulfil their industrial need. The annual report 2018-19 of Indian ministry of environment says that to better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to Decisions on various elements under Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) were adopted in COP. The adopted decisions recognize different starting points of developed and developing countries and need for support to developed countries for the implementation of Paris Agreement; provides flexibilities for developing countries and gives consideration to principles of equity, Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) etc. 

Thus we can say that poverty also weakened the fight against air pollution. So it is also a matter of concern in order to fight against air pollution.

Air pollution: as a result of policy failures:

Every problem must have its roots in policy failure therefore let us make a birds eye view on the policies and the troubles in their implementation –

1. Political limitations:

Policies are made and executed by two different institutions, making new policies is significantly a political decision while the execution depends on bureaucracy. We live in a parliamentary democracy which compels the political leadership to make popular policies which can secure their vote bank , this shortcoming often results as a weak punishment for law breaking. In case of air pollution the political unwillingness can be seen on various levels but the improper execution of forest conservation related policies is the best example of this cause again on ground level the failures of plantation campaigns has now become so common that no accountability be fixed for the failures.

2. Compromising attitude of ministries:-

The reason behind this line lies in a early disputed distribution of coal mines in various parts of India including the forest rich states like Jharkhand etc which may cause an irreplaceable damage for forest and the whole ecosystem and will also be resulted as a cause of air pollution, in international perspective the negative attitude of Brazilian government about the conservation of Amazon forest is known to all and the examples of the compromising attitude of THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTRIES which encourages the selfish exploitation of our forests and ultimately results in the form of polluted air for the whole earth.

3. Lack of interstate cooperation:

It often happens in every country which has a strong federal structure either it’s India or USA but in India, it is the biggest breaker in the proper implementation of decisions And execution of any policy. It happens because of the political rivalries among the parties but more significantly it happens because of differences between the economical structures of different states (for eg. we can’t expect unconditional cooperation between Punjab and Delhi government because where Punjab has its strength as a farming sector on the other hand Delhi has industries as its strength.)

Thus the lack of interstate cooperation is also a matter of serious concern and it becomes more necessary in winter when cities like Delhi face the problem of air pollution.

Air pollution:consequences :-

Air pollution has its consequences on every aspect of our lives. We can discuss the harmfulness of air pollution in mainly three areas which include its effects on our health, economy and environment. Let’s have a brief description of the cost we are paying for our failures.

1. Effect on health:

Air pollution affects our health very dangerously it causes the disease related to the respiratory system in this context a review of the literature by Health Effects Institute in 2010 of air pollution studies conducted in 13 countries in Asia, identified around 43 studies (published between 1980 and 2008) on the health impacts of ambient air pollution. Most of the research, conducted in the megacities of Delhi and Mumbai, reported the association between ambient air pollution and the prevalence of acute and chronic respiratory symptoms. Those which performed time-series analyses reported three very significant associations, between air pollution and health impacts – significant increases in acute respiratory illness, all-cause mortality and emergency visits for cardio-respiratory conditions. 

It is not limited to this point only but it’s affecting our children’s health and making them physically unfit. So we must address this problem as our first priority even if every kind of pollution is a curse for us so we should have the same attitude towards them also. Here remark is noticeable which is made by Keith Taylor, Green MEP for south east England, described air pollution as an “invisible killer” and called for greater effort to improve public awareness of the health impacts.

2. Effect on environment:

It is only a compulsory formality to discuss the impacts of air pollution on the environment because the issues like smog, low AQI and existence of harmful particles in the air are the problems which prove how badly air pollution has affected our environment. Issue of CLIMATE CHANGE & GLOBAL WARMING etc is today’s top concerns for the world which is the result of our ignorance about air pollution. So the effect of this problem on the environment can be experienced everywhere by everyone.

3. Effect on national economy:

Economic times published an article which concluded that India’s losses from air pollution increased more than four times to $560 billion between 1990 and 2013, according to the World Bank, which attributed the economic burden to the rising costs of public health-care and workforce disruption. Pollution is now being counted among the hidden costs like repelling top corporate talent, according to analysts and industry lobby groups.


We can summarize the discussion in following conclusions:-

  • Air pollution is a problem related to the existence and survival of the whole world as it’s responsible for problems like global warming and climate change.
  • This problem has its social and economic impacts. So it is needed to be addressed properly on both the individual and institutional level.
  • Despite the various challenges the fight against air pollution is resulting positively, for example we can see that international cooperation and plans against it are being executed properly.

Let us end the discussion by talking about the way forward. On an individual level, there are various ways like car pooling, taxi sharing, waste management etc, whereas at the social level we can educate people about different schemes. While on the level of local and global authorities we have various options to get rid of the above problem.

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